You’ve heard about it: Minnesota Wild beat writer Michael Russo recently reported that the players of Washington Capitals did not take their bubble experience seriously during the 2020 playoffs and turned it into a vacation and held pool parties.
We get why the 2018 Stanley Cup champions were quickly ousted in the first round by former coach Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders and never seemed interested in competing for the championship in this pandemic setting.
Head coach Todd Reirden was quickly dismissed after that and now Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan is searching for the new bench boss, someone who will “push some buttons on some players, some good players.”
Over the weekend, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman revealed that Capitals have interviewed Gerard Gallant and Mike Babcock for the vacant head coaching job. And it sounds like Friedman believes hiring Babs could be the best message to send to the players in Washington that the party is over. Here is how he explained it on NHL Network:
“Here’s the thing I think. I think the Capitals feel that they lost a bit of their edge. Sometimes that happens when you win a Stanley Cup. It’s hard to win once, never mind twice. That can happen. I think also though that, after I reported the Babcock thing over the weekend, I did have a couple texts from a player and the one thing that he said to me was that they just felt that when they got back for the return-to-play for training camp, whatever/it/is, It wasn’t there. They didn’t have it. There have been some reports now in the bubble about how the Capitals just weren’t the Capitals. They weren’t the driven, hungry champion that we’ve seen them be. I think the organization knows that. I think the organization feels that. I think they want someone who can come in and push some buttons a little bit. Mike Babcock is definitely one of those guys. He’s a polarizing guy. There were some things he did in Toronto, I think that were mistakes. But I think he’s done a lot of other things that I think would really help the Washington Capitals. To me, it’s always about, are you willing to look at what you did wrong and say, “I’m gonna fix that so it never happens again.”
Babcock might be willing to learn from his mistakes while remaining a tough coach to please. As you may remember, there were abuse allegations were made against Babs during his time in Detroit. There was also the whole incident with his player Mitch Marner in Toronto: it was revealed that Babcock forced a 19-year-old Marner to make a list of all the players on the team, singling out the players who he viewed had the worst work ethic. Since the incident was made public, many have denounced Babcock, condemning the former head coach for putting Marner through such an ordeal and even accused Babs of trying to put his players against one another.
Babcock recently took on a coaching and advisory role with the Vermont Catamounts of the NCAA in Burlington, Vermont. There is no doubt that the veteran team could benefit from Babcock’s experience. As his curriculum states: “he is a veteran of over 1300 NHL Games (Anaheim, Detroit and Toronto), winning a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008. He coached Team Canada on several occasions winning a Gold Medal five times - two Olympics (2010 in Vancouver and 2014 in Sochi); one World Junior Championship (1997), one World Championship (2004) and one World Cup (2016).”
While some former players have complained about Babcock’s actions and attitude, they all agreed that he wants to win and is a driven and competitive coach. And he could bring some much needed discipline to the Caps’ dressing room.